World War One: Champagne’s Darkest Hour

A new book has shown the Ideal Wine Company that World War One almost destroyed the Champagne industry.

Triumph over war

We take Champagne for granted. These days you can secure a fabulous Champagne, for instance the Dom Perignon 2000, which you can purchase from the Ideal Wine Company. Statistics suggest that Champagne is incredibly popular around the world; growers of the luxury tipple produce roughly 300 million bottles every year.

According to Decanter, a new book that was written by best-selling history authors Don and Petie Kladstrup has shown that the story could have been very different. The book, Champagne: How the World’s Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times, shows how World War One almost destroyed the global Champagne industry.

On the frontlines

They authors explained that “of all the terrible moments in Champagne’s long history, none was more catastrophic than World War One.” This is because the Champagne region (where the drink is made) is located in the North-East of France. Therefore Champagne was forced to play host to the Allied and German armies when World War One broke out in autumn 1914.

The region was forced to endure four years if vicious trench warfare. The tone was set when a German artillery attack set Reims Cathedral on fire in September 1914. A number of bloody battles were fought on the field of Champagne, that ended up devastating the region by the time World War One ended, on Armistice Day – 11th November, 1918.

Effect on Champagne

The War played havoc on Champagne production. Figures show that trench warfare had decimated around 40% of Champagne’s vineyards by Armistice Day. Meanwhile the War deprived the Champagne industry of its most experienced workers. The men were all sent off to fight, so women and children were forced to step in and pick grapes from vineyards throughout the region.

Despite these obstacles, the Champagne sector thrived; the 1914 vintage has been heralded as one of the best in history. This is despite the fact that picking was brought forward in 1914 due to the German’s retreat from Epernay, so people were forced to work amid gunfire and shelling!

Champagne endures

The book makes it clear that the Champagne industry could have been irrevocably damaged by the outbreak of World War One – but the determination of ordinary people allowed it to endure. They worked in treacherous conditions to ensure that people around the world could continue to enjoy a bottle of luxurious Champagne in even the most dire of circumstances!


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